Television interview - ABC News Breakfast

12 Sep 2022
Prime Minister
The passing of Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III, One-off public holiday

LISA MILLAR, HOST: Good morning to you.


MILLAR: The last couple of days have been pretty amazing, the scenes we have seen. You have announced the public holiday. I've got to tell you, PM, we're getting a bit of feedback into the program from people concerned about that public holiday, concerned about small business, hospitals, doctors, what is your message to them this morning?

PRIME MINISTER: My message is that these plans have been in place for a considerable period of time. We announced the national public holiday on the day of the National Day of Mourning, Thursday 22 September, as soon as it was possible to make that announcement. I did it in consultation with all the State and Territory leaders. This is a once in our lifetime event. Australians in their many thousands over the weekend have turned up here at Parliament House, they have turned up at events right around the nation in order to grieve and give gratitude for the service of Queen Elizabeth. And of course yesterday as well, we marked the proclamation of King Charles III as our head of state. This is a one-off public holiday. It will take place at the same time as we have the national memorial service here in the Great Hall of Parliament House where we'll bring together Parliamentarians, State and Territory leaders, Governors and of course presided over by the Governor-General. These events are historic. It is important that it is marked appropriately.

MILLAR: How do you think ordinary Australians will mark the day?

PRIME MINISTER: I think there will be events right around the country. This is why we've declared it a National Day of Mourning. I'm sure that Australians will want to show their respect in their own way. But what is clear about Queen Elizabeth is she was much loved by people across the political spectrum, across our vast island continent, she touched people. She visited on her first visit in 1954 almost 60 towns. She visited the big cities but she went to the smallest of towns and remote communities. She was someone who visited Australia 16 times. Served while 16 Australian Prime Ministers have served, and 16 Governors-General. It's a remarkable life of service we commemorate and we give gratitude for.

MILLAR: we’re discovering a lot about traditions and processes. One of them is the cancellation of parliamentary sitting days. You have indicated you're going to get those picked up at some point. Will that happen before the budget at the end of October?

PRIME MINISTER: Yes. That's the intention. Is to pick up those four days that Parliament would have been sitting. Tradition, I know, sometimes can be inconvenient. But traditions are important. Traditions and protocols are one of the things that bind us together. And I do think that the 22nd September can be a moment that brings our nation together. That is certainly the intention that I have and that I know the Leader of the Opposition has expressed his support for it being the National Day of Mourning and for a public holiday as well. This is something that is above politics. This is about a nation giving thanks.

MILLAR: Prime Minister, on British television overnight you indicated that there would be no debate about a republic or a referendum in your first term. Could there be one in your second term if you are re-elected?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that's not for answering now at this point in time. I made it clear before the last election what our intention was during this term. That is the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our constitution. I said at the time I couldn't envisage a circumstance where we changed our head of state to an Australian head of state but still didn't recognise First Nations people in our constitution, and the fact that we live with the oldest continuous culture on earth. So that's our priorities this term. I made that very clear before the election.

MILLAR: And why can't you tell me if it may be a priority in your second term if you won?

PRIME MINISTER: Because it's not appropriate now, Lisa, to talk about constitutional change. What is appropriate right now is to commemorate the life of service of Queen Elizabeth II.

MILLAR: Have you have extended an invitation yet to King Charles to come to Australia? I know you have suggested you would like to see a visit sooner rather than later. But when does that invitation actually take place?

PRIME MINISTER: I wrote to King Charles on Friday to express my condolence at the loss of Queen Elizabeth, of course, not just as the sovereign, but as King Charles' beloved mother. I thought his tribute to his late mother was extraordinarily touching. And it was an appropriate letter that I sent on behalf of the Australian people to King Charles. King Charles, like other members of the Royal Family, have always been welcomed here in Australia in the past. And they'll  be welcomed here in the future as well. But I'm sure that visits overseas are not the priority which King Charles is dealing with at the moment.

MILLAR: And as Australians do reflect on the legacy of Queen Elizabeth, there's still governing that is going on in Australia. We learned this morning that the significant investment visa that the Government has had its eye on is going to be dumped. Is that the case? Can you confirm that what your Home Affairs Minister has suggested is the case?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, that's a matter for the Home Affairs Minister. I at the moment am very much just focused on dealing with these issues of national significance. And I think that's what Australians expect from the Prime Minister at this point in time.

MILLAR: We had some news through from London in the last little while that there's been a request from the officials that all the leaders and Prime  Ministers and Presidents who are flying in fly commercially, they're going to be put on buses to the funeral. And they didn't want people flying around in helicopters. What are your travel plans, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: I will travel this Thursday night from Australia. Those plans have been in place for a long period of time. Since well before I became Prime Minister. I don't know how many Prime Ministers ago the plans were put in place. But they're long standing plans for myself and the Governor-General to travel to London and we'll be doing so on Thursday night. We're also making arrangements for Pacific leaders who are attached to the Commonwealth to be given the support to be able to travel as well.

MILLAR: Alright. Prime Minister, thank you for joining us this morning.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, Lisa.